Go play a game of pickup basketball, jump to shoot a hoop and you can come down hard and sprain an ankle. Play a game of friendly football and you can get a concussion during a bad tackle. Decide to train for a marathon and chances are you will have blisters, shin splints and even sustain an injury if you’re not careful during the long and increasing distances you run, just to prepare for the big event. Well some new research suggests that the very act of exercising vigorously may create an unsafe situation for some people, from the perspective of some screening parameters including:
- Blood pressure
- Insulin levels
- HDL and total cholesterol
Researchers actually analyzed data from six exercise studies that involved about 1690 total individuals. They found that in about 10% of the participants, at least one of the parameters listed above got worse, and 7% of the participants showed worse results for two of the parameters listed. But before all of you couch potatoes run to print up the study and wave it as proof that you shouldn’t exercise – it should be noted that an equal number of participants showed improvements in one or several health screening parameters. And those risk factors improved significantly, between 20% and 50%, in a group of the participants. Another problem pointed out was the fact that these studies do not typically go on for a long enough time to measure impact on heart attack risk or longevity. Researchers can infer these possible positive outcomes when they see improvements in blood pressure or cholesterol profiles, but they are not tracked and measured scientifically. And for that matter, despite the negative impact that showed up in some of the participants, no extension of the study was possible to see if these people ultimately had premature heart attacks or died at younger ages.
Experts who have reviewed the study suggest that exercise is still “beneficial and necessary for individuals.” It might be prudent before starting a formal exercise program, to have baseline studies done, especially if there is family history of heart disease or stroke or hypertension, and to do follow up screenings to see the impact of the exercise. One thing that researchers who reviewed this research extrapolated is that neither, age, state of fitness, improvement of fitness, race, gender seemed to play into who would be negatively impacted by exercise. Other researchers wondered if the negative findings were just due to normal fluctuations in body chemistry that one would typically find in a 24 hour day, or if these same people who were part of the 10% with negative measurements would have gotten worse over time without exercise. Someone even questioned whether these screenings could be affected by seasonal changes.
Ultimately, this study suggests that we need more information about what exercise does to the body. Since exercise has been credited with therapeutic impact, we do need to know specifically what levels of intensity, duration and specific kinds of exercise do to the average person who chooses to exercise.